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Owners of the original GT will no doubt remember the intro movie with fond affection. How many of you stood watching it in game stores with your jaw wide open, drool dripping from your bottom lip and eyes wide in utter disbelief..?
Well guys and girls, prepare for visual Nirvana...
Your pulse will once again race, the hairs on the back of your neck will stand to attention as you are thrown head-first into 3 minutes of the most amazing digital racing action ever seen on any computer, console or arcade machine to date. Not content with this, each of the three versions available (USA, JAP, EURO) has a wonderful sound track that has been carefully synchronised with the on-screen action.
For those of you reading this who already own the game, Sean Kelly (GT2 producer for SCEE) has let it be known that some of the scenes in the intro movie were rendered from REAL-TIME action on a PlayStation 2 running early GT2000 code. Owners of PAL consoles get to see much more of this footage than those with NTSC consoles due to a re-edited intro featuring far more European cars. These scenes are easy to spot as the vehicles featured look more angular and are of a slightly lower-resolution, than those produced frame-by-frame on a super computer. Careful observation gives you quite a good idea of the massive leap in graphical quality that the PS2 version will have over this game.
Once into the game its-self you can't help but feel a little disappointed with the lack of any real improvement in the graphics. After playing the eye-popping 'Hi-RES' mode that was unlocked at the end of the original Gran Turismo game, we all had our fingers and toes crossed hoping that Polyphony Digital would somehow wave their magic wand and give us this level of graphical excellence throughout the whole of GT2. On reflection this would have been impossible to achieve - especially considering the speed that the graphics would need to be shifted for the faster cars in the game, but at the same time we were hoping for a little more improvement that what we have actually been given here... Sure the cars are a little shinier and some of the (smaller) vehicles like the Lotus Elise look absolutely wonderful from any angle, but many looked angular, undefined and plain ugly when viewed from behind for several laps. I suppose the politically correct way of describing them would to say that the improvements have been very 'subtly' incorporated into the game.
As with Gran Turismo, it's the replays that show off the sheer power of the GT2 software engine. Yet again I found myself wondering how the hell they squeezed such amazing visuals out of our little grey box. There are now TEN different views that you can see the action from, as well as having the ability to cycle through all of the computer-controlled cars as well. The new overhead view is a great angle that often reveals the best racing line to take through difficult corners. The replay mode now also shows the position of the front wheels and how much you had you foot on both the gas and brake pedals - again this proves to be a very useful addition to allow you to optimise your lap times.
At this point we can almost hear the cries from those of you who contacted us begging that we mention the BLOODY ANNOYING fact that the replays now kick-in as soon as EVERY RACE is finished... yeah Sony we know they look great, but this drives you insane after a few hours. Worse still is the menu structure that follows the replay seems to try to get you to accidentally go back into the fu**ing replay AGAIN..!
The quality of the graphics used on each of the different tracks also varies considerably ranging from the very impressive Seattle circuit to the very messy Tahiti Road track that looks like it was drawn by a bunch of kids using crayons. Most of them are quite sparse, with little or no trackside objects to distract your eyes away from the racing action, but even then, this update suffers from far more graphical 'seaming', 'glitching' and 'pop-up' than the original G.T (especially in the PAL version). On one of the tracks, a long row of dense trees suddenly appears on each side of the road as you emerge from under a small bridge, while at the same time all of the signs 'pop' into view... now if these items were far into the distance this would be acceptable, but as they appear right in front of your vehicle you have got to wonder why they were included as part of the scenery, if the game engine wasn't powerful enough to handle them..?
In arcade mode the track selection screen now shows a rolling fly-by of the track as well as an overhead view of the whole circuit that details the position of the three split-time areas and the total length of the circuit.
Slowdown was noticeable on the two player (arcade) games and during periods when there were lots of cars on-screen together on some of the more graphically intensive tracks. Slightly more disturbing was the occasional habit of computer controlled cars driving right through the middle of your vehicle to get past you. Admittedly this happened on only a few occasions (when there were other computer cars pushing them off-line in a tight corner) - but in our opinion, this was a few too many..!
The cars can at last be damaged (in Arcade mode), but as this only effects the handling of your vehicle rather than its appearance, there is little satisfaction gained from grinding your opponents into the barriers. Anyway, wouldn't the 'damage' option have been better suited to the G.T (simulation) mode..?
A major improvement car be seen in the way each of the cars outer skin moves in reaction to sharp acceleration, deceleration and cornering. You would swear that you are in control of a real car as it rises, dips and rolls on its 4-point independent suspension. This not only looks great but also enhances the subtle differences in the way that each vehicle drives.
Even the wheels look fantastic and react to your commands with pinpoint accuracy when using an analog controller. The spokes in each of the alloys spin one way and then the other, replicating the optical illusion that occurs of real cars perfectly. The addition of a wheel shop that allows you to swap your rims for a new set manufactured by many of the world's greatest manufacturers such as 'OZ', 'ENKEI' and 'BBS'. With over 150 types to choose from the choice and styles available are commendable and add a nice new cosmetic touch to the game.
Fully operational brake lights are featured on the rear of each car, re-creating the many weird and wacky designs that have been used by car manufacturers over the years. Fog and reverse lights are unfortunately not functional, but hey, you can't have everything.
Three views are selectable while racing (in car, outside close and outside far), but they can be further tailored to your taste in the options area. We would recommend switching to the 'wide' mode as this allows you to see other cars trying to sneak past you without having to constantly hit the 'reverse-view' button on your joypad. The inside view has a handy rear view mirror that is ideal for making sure that other cars can't sneak past you. We noticed that Sony still haven't bothered to cure the glitch in the rally stages that shows your opponents car as a translucent silver ghostly shape when seen from the front of your vehicle... but a very solid 'proper' fully textured image of the car when viewed through your rear view mirror - harmless but never the less strange !
We would like to take this opportunity to commend Sony Europe for taking the time to correct the spelling mistakes that were left in the early retail copies of the USA version of the game. They have also smartened up the menu screens considerably and best of all employed a team of experts to completely re-write the Japanese descriptions that accompany each of the cars in the game. Euro gamers now get TWO SCREENS full of interesting, informative and well-written information on each vehicle. Best of all they have taken the time to correct many of the annoying (and sometimes fatal) bugs that littered the initial American release and proved that not every region puts cash before quality !
If you are listening Polyphony-D, we would love to see a few more computer controlled cars in the forthcoming PS2 version of this game, weather effects and live changes in ambient light levels during longer races as day turns to night (ala 'Ridge Racer' and 'Le Mans'), but most of all we want to be able to nudge - spin - flip and crumple our opponents and maybe even SEE the drivers (just like in TOCA touring cars).
Due to the size of this review, we have split it into several readable sections. You can select each of them by clicking on the links below:
Game Graphics Game Sound and Music Game Playability Reviewers Scores
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